Former employees mourn loss of burning Madera County brewery

Investigators are still looking into what sparked the blaze at Riley's Brewing.

Jason Oliveira Image
Saturday, July 30, 2022
EMBED <>More Videos

Ethanol continues to smolder following a chemical fire that destroyed Riley's Brewing on Avenue 15 and Road 29 near Madera.

MADERA COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Surrounded by charred remains, ethanol continues to smolder following a chemical fire that destroyed Riley's Brewing on Avenue 15 and Road 29 near Madera late Tuesday.

Mike Sumaya remains heartbroken.

He was one of seven employees at the facility that now find themselves out of a job.

Sumaya served as Riley's longtime head brewer before the devastating fire.

"We had a really cohesive team that was really hitting our stride. We had a new brew system that we spent the past year dialing in, we really had it dialed in. We were making the best beer we ever made," said Sumaya.

Sumaya said he dedicated his life to the local brewery.

That experience motivated him to open his own spot in Clovis - Incinerati Brewing Company late last year, working nights and weekends to get the tap room off the ground.

He credits Riley's and the management team there for helping him start his own business.

"What I definitely learned there was all the stuff that you have to do in a brewery. It's not just making beer, its plumbing, electrical, inventory, spreadsheets galore," says Sumaya.

The 10,000-square-foot facility also served as a space where Sumaya could store some of his beer-making product, but like most everything inside the structure, it was all destroyed.

Sumaya says he lost about $3,000 worth of material and ingredients to be used at Incinerati Brewing Company, while Riley's beer production has been completely halted.

"All of the beer that was on site, the seltzers, everything, we were doing some other products, all of the hand sanitizers, all of that is all gone. The only Riley's beer that exists is at the distributors," says Sumaya.

Local breweries are now rallying around Riley's, with talk of doing a beer fest fundraiser and GoFundMe page to help keep the Riley's name going.

Meantime, investigators are still looking into what sparked the blaze.